Webinar 101 @ 3200 Meters Above Sea Level

by Kelly Dwyer

Thanks to the Global Education Conference last November, I was able to sit in on a number of virtual seminars streamed from across the globe, while sitting at my desk here in Peru. It was through this Virtual Conference I was first introduced to the efforts of the Inter-American Teacher Education Network (ITEN), the educational branch of the Organization of American States. 

Landing back on the roles of the DC school system as an English Language Learning teacher, I was fortunate enough to acquaint myself with the dynamic trio of the ITEN staff (Adriana Vilela, Michaela Reich and Monica de la Garza) whose offices are located just a stone’s throw from the White House and who received me with open arms and set up a meeting to discuss possible avenues of collaboration between Teach a Teacher and ITEN.  It is always heartening to meet allies in the front of education “evolution.”  I hesitate to ever call it “reform” as most of the enlightened and true believers in the potential of an educated populous have seen the continued failings of this they call reform.  (As a youth, I distinctly remember the place “bad kids” went, was called reform school).

The discussion included the many possibilities and potential we had for the two organizations collaborating in the future.  Adriana shared her recent dialog with the International Reading Association, of which I have been a long time member, and their interest in getting involved on some projects.  As a result the next meeting brought us together with Sakil Malik and Yesley Contreras of the International Reading Association, who wowed us all with the great projects the Reading Association was and has been involved in globally, especially the efforts of The Global Literacy Development Network.  Although Sakil said they were not quite ready to implement full-scale development projects, they were very interested and inspired into turning efforts towards the OAS member nations because of the consensus of the most recent Education Ministerial meeting being that of improving the quality of education in the member countries i.e. Latin American nations.  The brainstorm, once again, inspired by Adriana was for ITEN to host a series of webinars presented by three of their finest Spanish-speaking IRA professional members.  Teach a Teacher would then be responsible for bringing interested educators into a classroom situation for the webinars.

My mistake was deciding this time to work through the Regional Education Office, which through the use of Hotmail as their professional emails and very rare review of those emails, and not necessarily aware of how to manage the technology to work for them, the location for the classes almost didn’t happen.  In the end, many of my contacts and education allies came through.  Teach a Teacher owes a big thanks to Juan Espejo Bossio, director of Colegio Huascaran, a Private School for which I worked formerly, for providing their facilities for all three webinar sessions this “summer.”

Twenty-one educators were in attendance and several new to our Teach a Teacher network.  All of the educators there were interested and enlightened by the prospect of the written word needing context and association to the learner.  They all learned (and many for the first time) that stimulation of the learner at an early age through the contextually and developmentally appropriate exposure is much more likely to create life-long competent, “good readers.”  They sat attentively as Dr. Adelina Arellano Osuna, our first presenter in the series, explained the need for involving the reader in the story with predictable stories and encouraging the emergent learner to make these predictions.  The competent reader is one who follows the descriptions and words creating an image and meaning in their own mind and the willingness and need to write comes from inspiration and desire to communicate in the written word, were novel concepts. One educational ally in the region relayed the comment she received from one of the attendees, “Pienso que la Dra. ha hablado de que ustedes estuvieron diciendo por años sobre la enseñanza de la lectora.” 

“Children do not learn to read and write by copying phrases written by the teacher on the board,”  Dr. Arellano emphasized.

Thank you Dr. Adelina for backing us up!

In the moments when the Internet connection dropped, I was able to reiterate and expand on what Dr. Arellano was talking about.  I promised to give them an example of a read-aloud the next time and told of some of my experiences in their schools with the use of literature for children.  One attendee told a marvelous story about her experience with 5 year-olds in a Quechua speaking school, located in a very remote community.  She told the story half in Quechua and half Spanish about how children dictated the words of the song to her that they were inspired to dance to after creating their own headdresses out of tuna cans and cardboard.  Once they did this, they themselves were following the written word and inspired by the process.

Many of our participants asked if they could invite others to the next session and there was much discussion and enthusiasm afterwards.  So what started as, “Oh it will be very difficult to get anyone to attend!” and the regional education office dropping the ball on providing the location they had promised, transpired into a group of educators being excited about the possibilities and what they are learning.

Less than a week to go until the next session, we are working on securing additional names of those attending the next class, entering and compiling comments on the blogs and answering the questions in Survey Monkey, all designed an coordinated by ITEN, with the intention that the participants who attend and respond to all three webinars will receive certificates from ITEN/IRA.

Stay tuned.

*Please note, if you are following Teach a Teacher with interest of coming as a volunteer. Not one of the experts, staff or professionals involved in the fore-mentioned efforts believes that this technology can take the place of person to person training.  We have opened the door and the minds of educators. They are hungry for more.

Teach a Teacher and our Volunteers provide Professional Development and help teach basic teaching skills to Teachers in some of the poorest areas of Peru.   Please visit us at www.teachateacher.org and www.teachateacher.wordpress.com and at teachateacher on Facebook.

Kelly Dwyer is Executive Director of Teach a Teacher nonprofit!   She has been splitting her time between Washington DC and Peru.  We live and focus most of our  work in the Ancash region of Peru.

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